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One of the perks of working at a magazine is that you sometimes get freebies. So, when I received a complimentary copy of the computer game Spore, I immediately brought it home and subjected it to rigorous testing (well, actually hours of obsessive playing).

For those not familiar with Spore, the game (recently released by Maxis) challenges players to evolve alien life forms and guide them through various stages of civilization. In my opinion, though, the best part of this simulation is the “Creature Creator,” which allows the artistically challenged (such as yours truly) to design a menagerie of critters by mixing and modifying various body parts. Players can even share their creations on the ever-expanding Sporepedia.

While most of these critters are bug-eyed (or no-eyed) alien life forms, the Spore Creature Creator has also spawned a cottage industry of do-it-yourself dinosaur designers. (Some of their work has been uploaded to YouTube).

The most hardcore dinosaur designers, however, can be found over at the “Spore Realism Project,” (SRP) whose motto is: “A bit of Earth DNA in the primordial soup.” The folks at SRP have issued a disclaimer that they have no grudges against extra-terrestrials, but prefer to concentrate on “the options that thoughtful Maxis designers left inside the game… make the game more ‘realistic’.”

One prolific SRP dino designer goes by the name “Roboraptor” -- who has been working in the field of Vertebrate Paleontology for approximately 5-6 years. His creations, including links to animated videos, can be found here. And SRP has unveiled a downloadable “Walking with Dinosaurs” patch for Spore, which includes twenty-one famous dinosaurs (six carnivores, fourteen herbivores and one crocodile).

The Spore Realism Project is lobbying Maxis to make it possible to place their creations on a single planet in the Spore galaxy—a virtual wildlife preserve where dinosaurs can roam free. There’s even an online petition in support of the idea. So, if you’re a dinosaur enthusiast, here’s your chance to make your voice heard. After all, it is an election year.

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